Fighting has broken out in the Gaza Strip between Israeli forces and Jewish settlers refusing to leave their homes. Early this morning Israeli security personnel entered Neveh Dekalim, the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. Police arrested 20 young settlers who attempted to block their entry. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that one settler threw an unidentified substance onto the eyes of a police officer temporarily blinding him. Hundreds of young settlers took to the streets and burned tires and large garbage containers to block the movement of the police. Another 500 settlers and right-wing activists were arrested after they tried to illegally sneak into closed-off settlements. Residents have until midnight tonight to leave or face forcible removal. Haaretz is reporting that Israel expected the evacuation of the Gaza Strip to be completed within 10 days. We’ll go to Gaza for a report in a few minutes.
In Iraq, the country’s National Assembly failed to agree on a new constitution by Monday’s deadline, but legislators have extended the deadline an extra week. Key differences remain over the role of Islam, women’s rights and whether the Shiites and Kurds will be allowed to form autonomous regions in the south and the north. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Bush administration “pressured Iraqis” to agree on a draft “even for appearance’s sake so the political process seemed on track.” On Monday, the US Ambassador to Iraq — Zalmay Khalilzad–sat in on the National Assembly to observe the negotiations. Over the weekend he submitted his own draft of a constitution. After Monday’s deadline passed, Khalilzad blamed the country’s recent sandstorm for the delay. He said QUOTE “We recognize that the three days lost because of the recent sandstorm set back the schedule of deliberations.” If a constitution is not agreed to by next week it would throw Iraq into a political crisis. Under the U.S.-written transitional law, if the constitution is not agreed to on time, the national assembly would be dissolved. Iraq would then have to hold new elections and start the political process all over again.
Meanwhile August is shaping up to be one of the deadliest months so far for U.S. troops in Iraq. 44 U.S. soldiers were killed in the first 10 days of the month alone. The week beginning Aug. 3 marked the fourth deadliest week of the war for U.S. forces.
In Chicago, a federal judge has ordered Voices in the Wilderness to pay a $20,000 fine for violating the Iraq sanctions. 15 years ago the group began bringing in symbolic amounts of medical, educational and humanitarian aid on a regular basis to Iraq in defiance of U.S. law. The U.S. Treasury Department initially imposed the fine in 2002, days after Voices participated in international actions to oppose the U.S. buildup for war against Iraq.
In Afghanistan — as many as 17 Spanish troops have died in a helicopter crash. Spain has about 850 troops deployed in the country as part of NATO’s operation there. At the time of the crash, the helicopter was taking part in a NATO training exercise. The cause of the crash is not yet known.
More papers have been released from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts days working in the Reagan White House. The Wall Street Journal reports the papers depict him as a “forceful conservative.” In one paper, Roberts wrote that a controversial memorial service for aborted fetuses was “an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy.” He also approved a telegram written by President Reagan that compared Roe vs. Wade to the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which upheld slavery. In another paper, Roberts defended prayer in public schools.
The Washington Post has dropped its sponsorship of the Pentagon’s Freedom Walk and concert scheduled to take place on Sept, 11th. The announcement came after the paper’s Newspaper Guild called on the paper to withdraw its sponsorship of the event in order for the paper to maintain its appearance of neutrality. The Post had originally agreed to give the Pentagon free advertising space for the event. Anti-war groups including United for Peace and Justice and the American Friends Service Committee had criticized the Post for endorsing what they saw as a pro-war event. While the Pentagon has denied the Freedom Walk will be politicized, headlining the event will be country star Clint Black who sings the war-glorifying song 'Iraq and I Roll.'
In Massachusetts, a decorated Marine who served in Iraq is facing attempted murder charges after he fired a shotgun from his apartment window at a group of revelers outside a nightclub. Just last month the Marine — Daniel Cotnoir–was named 2005 Marine of the Year by the Marine Corps Times. After he won the award Cotnoir posed for a photo with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Cotnoir has reportedly been suffering from post-war stress since serving in Iraq where he worked as a mortician preparing bodies of U.S. soldiers for burial.
In Georgia, the Atlanta City Council has voted to make panhandling illegal in much of the city. Opponents say the ordinance will in effect ban homeless people from major portions of downtown Atlanta. Third-time offenders will be jailed for 30 days and face a $1,000 fine. Homeless advocates say Atlanta now has among the toughest panhandling laws in the country.
The Associated Press is reporting that an unusual class of airline flyers are being affected by the country’s no-fly list–infants. According to AP, airline security are stopping families who have infants with names that are similar to those on the government’s watch lists. One mother said, '’I understand that security is important. But if … we have to give up our passport to prove that our 11-month-old is not a terrorist, it's a waste of their time.’’
Inspectors from the Agricultural Department have found more than 1,000 violations of rules aimed at preventing mad cow disease from reaching humans. The rules were created in December 2004 in response to the nation’s first case of mad cow disease.
In Florida, the state Attorney General has announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the people responsible for planting a bomb that killed two civil rights activists on Christmas night in 1951. The bomb exploded at the home of Harry and Harriette Moore–pioneering civil rights activists in Florida. Harry Moore was the founder of the Brevard County NAACP and was working at the time to register African-American citrus workers. No one has ever been charged in the murders.